Author Topic: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?  (Read 1141 times)

Rowellen

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Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« on: November 13, 2017, 07:40:08 PM »
Background
I'm an accountant. My position is the highest in the office. If something goes wrong is my arse on the line. I'm quite particular about things where it matters.

We've recently changed software so some of the reports produced are slightly different. CW1 asked about a couple of reports. Last year these reports included middle names. Now they don't. I explained to her that it didn't matter. Yesterday CW2 asked the same questions. I explained it again. She insisted she wanted it changed because "it was there last year" and "bossman will notice". I politely refused.

Later in the day I got an email from the office manager.  Basically saying I need to listen to CW2 and fix the issues. So then I was pissed because CW2 has gone over my head.

I replied explain the issue (again!) And stated flat out that I would not be changing it. I thought my email was quite polite and reasonable. It was certainly nicer than my first draft which was a very toned down version of what I was thinking  (tell CW2 to go fuck herself).

I got an email back today saying it wasn't ok to say I wasn't going to do it.

By now I've spent more time stewing on this than it would have taken to fix it but now it's a matter of principal. I believe CW2 is out of line and on a power trip (it's not the first time).  The problem is petty and irrelevant (it's a fucking middle name on a non-legal document FFS.)  But I'm very conflict adverse and will be leaving in the new year anyway. They don't know that though. I feel bullied by CW2 by her behaviour. I have FU money but I doubt they'd fire me. I'm replaceable but not easily.

Should I let it go or stand my ground? What would you do?


Lady SA

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2017, 07:51:29 PM »
In times like this, I like to pull the "tradeoffs" card. Especially if you are a "builder" and these coworkers depend on your output.
Basically, the idea is to give the power-trippy coworkers two options and layout the consequences/tradeoffs. And then make them choose.
Both of these options should be acceptable to you -- either you don't do the change at all, or you make them do the heavy work to take something else off your plate to make room for their request. They shouldn't get to just bulldoze in and demand you do this IN ADDITION to everything else you are doing. You only have so many hours in the day and so many fucks to give.

It goes something like this.

"Hi annoying coworker:

I hear that you want me to change the structure of these reports. I understand that the reports are different than last year. Here are our options:

1. I change the report to what you wish. This will have XYZ impact on this other work that you and company leaders (actually) care about, and will push back delivery of that other important work by 2 weeks. You will need to talk to my leaders to prioritize this new work to update the reports accordingly.

2. I leave the report as-is and I can assist with any changes we need to make to internal processes to ease this transition.

If #2 is unacceptable to you, can you share what impact the lack of middle name is having to your team? I would like to rectify any issue this is causing.

Thank you."

Boom. They can either spell out how ridiculous this request is (and realize how much of a dumbass they are being), or they might actually share a real pain-point that they are experiencing that you don't know about. The reason giving them options works (and explicitly laying our the tradeoffs they are making) is because it gives them a (false) sense of control over the situation. Kind of like toddlers, people like feeling like they have a bit of control over the situation.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2017, 08:04:26 PM by Lady SA »
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Bicycle_B

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2017, 08:25:25 PM »
I'd let it go. 

But I'd be very tempted to put in the middle initial, quit next year as planned, and eagerly await the exit interview/why are you leaving question.  Answer:  "The environment in our office is too petty and doesn't support its designated team leaders.  Even on issue as small as a middle initial, poor communication and no support.  I felt disrespected and I have better options."

You sound like you want to use your upcoming freedom to light this fire.  It's your life, you're free.  Do what you want.

Personally I wouldn't want to die openly over this tiny issue because I feel the pettiness would reflect badly on me.  I'd feel like the team lead version of Milton in Office Space with his stapler.  This as a former accountant myself.

Hmm, there's a deeper point to consider.  If you feel disrespected, it's possible that your subordinates do too.  They are lower on the totem pole and, according to you, their immediate supervisor/team is "quite particular."  Going over your head isn't considerate, but perhaps they are doing it because they feel overly controlled.  If so, it's entirely possible that your own boss views both you and them as petty in this matter and wishes both sides would just drop this irrelevant matter.  In this case, dropping it is wise as a preventive measure.  Quitting or fighting hard over this issue is the kind of thing where boss-level and supervisor-level people will tell this story about you behind your back later - not maliciously, but sadly.  It's the kind of thing that changes an informal referral from "detailed, technically skilled" to "picky...smart but petty, not good supervisor material."  Did I mention that I'm a picky, detailed FORMER accountant??

But I'm not in that office feeling those feelings.  You're the boss of you!

In any case, glad you have FU money.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2017, 08:27:28 PM by Bicycle_B »

GoConfidently

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2017, 08:47:59 PM »
Your story reminds me of an incident from my first job. I worked for a tax accountant and was hired in October. One of my first tasks was to write collection letters. Boss showed me the form, I proceeded to complete twenty or so of these letters, and dropped them on her desk to be signed with addressed envelopes clipped to each one. I was extra diligent about making sure every penny was correct.

She returned the stack and asked me to redo them. Why? Because I had addressed them (envelope/letter) as:
Mr. and Mrs. John Doe / Dear John and Jane Doe

She wanted:
Mr. John and Ms. Jane Doe / Dear John Doe and Jane Doe

I was super pissed off. I addressed them the way I had been taught, and her way sounded weird to me. The form example was a single name so I didnít have an example to see what she wanted. It was a small thing, but it made me feel stupid/inadequate and I hate feeling stupid. I wondered if these twenty really made a difference and couldnít I just fix it going forward? Nope. Redo the whole bunch. In hindsight, she was right. We sometimes had people who were siblings making these purchases and addressing it like spouses would be insulting (we only saw the document that pertained to us and had no way of knowing the relationship of the purchasers without pulling the whole file). I just didnít know that at the time. And anytime youíre asking people to refund you credited money weeks before Christmas, the last thing you want to do is piss someone off because of how you write their name.

My point is, maybe itís a small thing thatís meaningless to you that actually means something to someone else. Or maybe it truly is pointless and theyíre all idiots. Either way, if youíre the one in charge, give the task to a subordinate. Or just do it. An initial isnít worth the mental gymnastics. Youíll be out of there soon anyway so someone undermining your authority should have zero impact on your emotions. Check the box and move on.

Mattzlaff

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2017, 08:54:49 PM »
I agree on letting it go and just adding the middle name. This whole thing seems petty from both sides but I don't work in an office and don't really have any politics in my workplace I need to worry about. If you're in the "highest position in the office" then I think you should demonstrate that you are willing to listen and accept changes especially if you're underlings raise the issue. I'm not sure if you're in some leadership position but a leader doesn't lead from the back barking orders, you should work with your coworkers do what is requested especially if it made its way up the ladder and back down to you.

Communication with CW2 would probably go a long way, they feel disrespected that you dismissed their concern and wanted clarification going up the ladder, turns out they were right with their concern. Possibly talk with them, let them know you felt jumped over and it didn't feel good but you did what was requested and hopefully everyone might feel better about themselves, avoiding this in the future.

You're probably all good at your jobs so when a coworkers raises a concern I wouldn't dismiss it so readily in the future no matter how petty you think it is.

Rowellen

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2017, 12:24:25 AM »
Ok I caved. Whether I can change the report remains to be seen. I have to go back to the software provider. However the condition was that the reports already completed would not be changed.

Just to clarify though. CW1 & CW2 are not my subordinates. I am picky with my own work, not theirs. They work for the financial planning side of the business. There are many mutual clients and they like to see the reports before they go out to the client. I usually take on board all suggestions as they are usually helpful. This one was not. After talking to CW2 she appeared satisfied with my explanation. I don't see it as a communication failure on my part. After talking to her and also the office manager it appears the real issue is that she didn't want to explain to the boss why this report was different to last year. Office manager did it for her. Boss was fine. He can be a prick but he's usually not unreasonable when the reasons are explained. CW2 is his PA. She is good at what she does but she just doesn't understand what I do.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2017, 08:20:09 AM »
After talking to her and also the office manager it appears the real issue is that she didn't want to explain to the boss why this report was different to last year. Office manager did it for her. Boss was fine.

This drives me crazy in my job too.  I get so tired of people wanting to do the same thing year after year after year just because they don't understand/don't want to answer questions about why change might be good.  They turn inconsequential things into big deals.

I've learned to do a lot more communication up front about the reasons why I'm changing their reports, and document it in writing so they can just forward that.
Boldly leading a blended family into (future) financial independence

Blonde Lawyer

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2017, 09:24:00 AM »
Maybe there is a real reason to include the middle initial? I have a couple of clients with the exact same name so I need the middle initial to differentiate them.

ltt

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2017, 05:26:11 AM »
I don't find this to be a power struggle at all.  What I do find it to be is wanting to be conscientious with all the people out there with the same names.  In an office, you may have fathers and sons with the same first and last name.  There may be only one way to identify them and that is through their middle name/initial.  Would the business lose some credibility if the financial reports or other info were mailed to the wrong person because the info was mixed up because of no middle name?  I think it would

Loren Ver

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2017, 06:53:31 AM »
Your story reminds me of an incident from my first job. I worked for a tax accountant and was hired in October. One of my first tasks was to write collection letters. Boss showed me the form, I proceeded to complete twenty or so of these letters, and dropped them on her desk to be signed with addressed envelopes clipped to each one. I was extra diligent about making sure every penny was correct.

She returned the stack and asked me to redo them. Why? Because I had addressed them (envelope/letter) as:
Mr. and Mrs. John Doe / Dear John and Jane Doe

She wanted:
Mr. John and Ms. Jane Doe / Dear John Doe and Jane Doe

I was super pissed off. I addressed them the way I had been taught, and her way sounded weird to me. The form example was a single name so I didnít have an example to see what she wanted. It was a small thing, but it made me feel stupid/inadequate and I hate feeling stupid. I wondered if these twenty really made a difference and couldnít I just fix it going forward? Nope. Redo the whole bunch. In hindsight, she was right. We sometimes had people who were siblings making these purchases and addressing it like spouses would be insulting (we only saw the document that pertained to us and had no way of knowing the relationship of the purchasers without pulling the whole file). I just didnít know that at the time. And anytime youíre asking people to refund you credited money weeks before Christmas, the last thing you want to do is piss someone off because of how you write their name.

My point is, maybe itís a small thing thatís meaningless to you that actually means something to someone else. Or maybe it truly is pointless and theyíre all idiots. Either way, if youíre the one in charge, give the task to a subordinate. Or just do it. An initial isnít worth the mental gymnastics. Youíll be out of there soon anyway so someone undermining your authority should have zero impact on your emotions. Check the box and move on.


Reading this made me smile.  Sometimes we forget to look at the other side when we think we are right, but we expect others to see our side.
Thank you for sharing.

LV

Rowellen

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2017, 03:12:49 PM »
I get what you are all trying to say. But that is truly not the case here. This is purely CW2 wanting to get her own way. And she has. I know these clients. I've been working here for 10 years and many have been clients the whole time. These reports are a few pages out of a larger document. We only deal with Self Managed Super Funds. Each one is unique. The number of members are limited to 4 by law. The most any one client has is 3. Majority have two. We don't have any clients who share names. Believe it or not, I actually do know what I'm talking about. I have a bachelor's degree, post-graduate diploma, almost 20 years experience and countless hours of CPD. CW2 is a glorified secretary. She is very good at what she does and I admire her ability to do small talk with clients. But her sole reasoning was "it was different to last year" and "the boss might notice". Office manager is attempting to change the reports. No doubt something will get fucked up and I'll have to fix it. But CW2 got her way so everyone's happy.

tyort1

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2017, 03:16:52 PM »
Are you FI?  Do you have FU money?  If so, then you can say what you like to the higher ups.  Otherwise I'd just do what they say.  Unless they wanted me to do something unethical.  But this crap about a middle name?  Meh it's not worth it.
Frugalite in training.

Rowellen

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Re: Petty office power struggle - let it go or stand my ground?
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2017, 03:32:11 PM »
FU but not FI. I could survive a few years without a job.